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September is National Preparedness Month: Are you ready for storm or flu?
September is National Preparedness Month: Are you ready for storm or flu?

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 13, 2009) — Protecting our loved ones and ourselves in the event of an emergency — a tornado, hurricane, flood, or flu pandemic — requires advance planning. To highlight what all Americans can do to prepare for emergencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated September as National Preparedness Month.

National Preparedness Month is designed to remind Americans that now is a good time for each of us to think seriously about what we would do to keep our families, friends, and communities safe should we be faced with an emergency situation. While most citizens know that they should prepare for emergencies, studies have found that people are unsure what they need to do to be ready. Fortunately, resources are available to help us make plans to protect ourselves and our loved ones when disaster strikes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has prepared a brochure entitled “Preparing Makes Sense. Get Ready Now.” This brochure is available on the Department’s website at www.ready.gov or may be requested by calling 1-800-BE-READY (1-800-237-3239). These materials explain why planning ahead can make it easier to deal with emergency situations that occur unexpectedly. The brochure shares practical guidelines for assembling supply kits and developing family communication plans. The www.ready.gov website also provides helpful information for military families, seniors, and people with disabilities to help them address the unique challenges they may face during an emergency.

In light of the H1N1 flu virus, it is also important that we know what actions we can take to help lessen the impact of a potential flu pandemic on ourselves and our loved ones. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website www.flu.gov is a one-stop location for H1N1 flu resources, including information for travelers, steps to take to plan for a pandemic, and public service announcements featuring Sesame Street characters explaining the importance of practicing healthy habits such as washing your hands, staying home when you are sick, and avoiding contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. Information about the H1N1 flu is also available by calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a HHS agency, at (800) 232-4636. While these resources provide practical health information, they are not intended to substitute professional medical advice from your doctor.

Now is the time for Americans to start making emergency plans, but it is also a good time for those with plans in place to review their emergency arrangements. Experts say that whether one lives in an area prone to tornadoes or other severe weather, or if one lives in an area experiencing a high number of H1N1 flu cases, the elements of preparedness are essentially the same. Taking the time to develop an emergency plan is an investment that will pay off should the unthinkable happen.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

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